Imagine if Democrats could point to one state that survived the economic recession better than the rest because of liberal policies. Imagine if that state created more jobs, attracted more new businesses and cut the cost of living significantly. Democrats would sing the praises of that state to every voter in the 2014 and 2016 elections.
That state doesn’t exist for liberals, but it does for conservatives — and it’s time for the GOP to adjust its message accordingly.
While the economy has struggled to show some middling signs of life, there is an example of a large slice of America that has not just survived, but thrived, in these punishing times, by employing conservative policies.
As ideas are bandied about for the best route forward, those making the case for fiscal responsibility, constitutional fidelity and limited government do not have to rely on promises and conjecture. They have Texas’ results.
There’s a reason Gov. Rick Perry can spread himself across every cable network and op-ed page he can find, scoring points on matters from immigration to states’ rights and foreign policy. It’s because in the nearly three years since he brain-cramped on a presidential debate stage, he has returned to the job that made him a big deal in the first place — piloting our second-most-populous state through the roiling waters of the Obama presidency.
Mr. Perry has not done this by himself. The state’s resilience is crafted by a conservative legislature and the combined instincts of communities filled with citizens who like their government small and localized, their liberties unmolested and their values left intact.
Throw those tastes into a mixing bowl and you get a state that creates jobs, attracts new businesses and protects religious liberties. Isn’t that what every Republican candidate should be promising to do on a national level?
I do not reach these conclusions by chance. I have spent most of my adult life in my native Texas, returning in 1994 after a childhood in a liberal state (Maryland) and previous stops in then-fairly blue Tennessee, purple Florida, and liberalism’s worst experiment, Washington, D.C.
There is a reason why Texas can save our country. It does not involve Texans spreading out to other states to wave magic wands to replicate our success. It involves leadership by example.
Not so long ago, the so-called “Golden State” of California was a land of promise, attracting millions with the promise of great opportunity and improved lives. California’s magnetic poles have reversed. Its confiscatory taxes and suffocating regulation now repel people and businesses, many of which are relocating to states such as Texas that do not impede their success or rob them blind if they achieve it.
New York makes a huge deal out of a carrot designed to attract new businesses with a decade of tax abatement, but its rules are so narrow that a long line of takers seems unlikely.
Struggling states face the same fork in the road that lies before the nation in general: more expansionist, collectivist, overreaching government, or a bold shift toward letting people keep more of their money as government slims down to only the functions it is supposed to undertake.
Events and headlines have set a stage for conservatives to win back hearts and minds lost during a presidency that has disheartened even some voters who helped bring it about.
It is often said that candidates offering alternatives will have to do more than come out against the status quo. They will have to be for things, not just opposed to things, making clear arguments for rolling back taxes, spending and regulation.
Washington Democrats will howl that this will dry up government’s ability to improve our lives. They will warn that leaving so much money in taxpayer hands and so much freedom of choice in their lives can only lead to peril.
When that argument arises, the best rebuttal is Texas, where a red state has thrived under 20 years of delicious one-party rule. The value of the example extends beyond economics.
We push back against the zealotry of the Environmental Protection Agency, and our air still gets cleaner. We stand up for gun rights, and our communities are safer. We believe in strong borders, and Hispanic voters are not repelled.
These ideas can lead to a renaissance in any state adopting them and in a nation too long in decline. The “Texas miracle” has not been a miracle at all. It has been the product of voters demanding government closer to the style envisioned by our Founders.
Mark Davis is the author of “Lone Star America: How Texas Can Save Our Country” (Regnery, 2014) and is a talk-show host on Salem Communications’ 660 AM (KSKY) in Dallas-Fort Worth.